The Blog


David Frederick Thomas

Following the publication last August of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, there has been much debate concerning the merits of big, Dickensian works. The underlying question is simple: can rather traditional novels continue to do new and exciting things? Benjamin Hale’s debut, The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore, is just such a work; and, in short, the answer is yes. 

Here’s the premise: Bruno Littlemore, a chimpanzee born in Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, is the first non-human being to gain language. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore is, ostensibly, Bruno’s memoir, dictated from where he sits in captivity for the murder of a man. 


Clare Sullivan

Of all the attributes that set Latin America apart from its northern neighbors, perhaps none captivates quite like the regional tendency to put community before the individual. Few visitors to Latin America fail to observe the way the lives of so many Latin Americans interweave, and the way that interweaving expresses itself socially. If you’ve ever shared an afternoon meal in a Latin American home or enjoyed a dinner out until five in the morning, you’ve witnessed the way Latin Americans appreciate one another’s company. This spirit of camaraderie suffuses all levels of society, expressing itself in social customs, economics, and politics. It’s fair to wonder: is the communal spirit that keeps an Epiphany celebration going all night long the same that makes the region so resistant to globalization?

Game Night and the Writers' Workshop

Maggie Shipstead

This post is part of The 75th Project, a series of essays by graduates of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

“Game night?”

“Game night.”

“Epic game night?”

“I could do an epic game night.”

This is a conversation I had dozens of times during my second year at Iowa but will probably never have again.

It all started with Big Buck Hunter.


Jane Lewty

In Alain Robbe-Grillet’s novella La Jalousie (1957), the unnamed narrator, whose presence is delineated only by the arrangement of exterior objects, relays his observations from behind a slatted window. Meticulous attention is paid to every nuance of gesture and tone in an intimate relationship, thus producing a composite portrait of an environment. No drastic event occurs but the robotic details of human behavior are revealed for their immense importance as the signifiers of emotion. Marc Rahe’s recent poetry collection, The Smaller Half, operates in much the same manner, but with one difference: the speaker’s shrewd surveillance is part of a human warmth that suffuses the entire collection.


Erika Jo Brown

Let us, for a moment, judge a book by its cover. The title of Jennifer Karmin’s debut poetry collection, aaaaaaaaaaalice, stretches across the span of the book in hollow, clean, orange typeface. Several blue keywords wrap around laterally. The front cover, mostly white space, is modestly embellished with three inky bunnies in the bottommost corner. The astute typography and layout design reflect the accomplishments of the book, which experiments with space and presence in an unpretentious and, frankly, perky way. It is at once socially generous (the keyword “hello” is bolded in salutation), intellectually inquisitive, and aesthetically tickling. aaaaaaaaaaalice is a generous book that innovates its own space in which to breathe and invites the reader to do the same.


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